Accessibility in business means being inclusive of all people regardless of age and physical abilities. Although more than 4.4 million Australians live with some form of disability, many businesses fail to prioritise the varying needs of these individuals. If you want to make your premises more accessible, here are some ways that can help make everyone feel welcomed and valued.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, for about 77% of people with disability, the main condition is physical. This includes diseases of connective tissue, musculoskeletal system and nervous system that can cause chronic pain, restriction of physical activity, incomplete use of arms, fingers, feet or legs and other difficulties.
These conditions can further cause problems for people to access certain areas, such as doorways, stairs and sidewalks, without some form of assistance or equipment. That’s why you should consider adding a high-quality handicap ramp to help users of wheelchairs and other mobility aids access elevated and uneven surfaces safely and independently.
Things to Consider
When choosing a handicap ramp for your business, you should ensure it meets the Australian safety and quality standards. Not only because it’s the kind and right thing to do, but also because it’ll save you from potential lawsuits. In addition, you should also determine which access ramp will be the most suitable for your needs and premises.
Permanent structures which are open to the public require obtaining a building permit and must adhere to the standards set by the Disability Discrimination Act. Although portable ramps for disabled access don’t require permits, you still need to make an informed choice regarding the materials and placement. Please note that not all portable ramps are DDA-compliant, meaning they may be suitable for personal use only.
When it comes to portable solutions, there are folding, telescopic and threshold ramps available on the market. Folding models allow for easy transport, use and storage and can serve as great backup ramps. The telescopic type is length-adjustable and able to adapt to varied heights. Threshold units sit flush against the lip of kerbs and doorways, reducing the risk of tripping and improving access for mobility aid users.
DDA Compliant Door Hardware
DDA-compliant doors and hardware ensure no one is denied equitable access to buildings and services. Apart from choosing DDA-compliant door furniture, you should also ensure correct installation and adjustment to your specific needs. Look for reliable and trusted door hardware suppliers that offer expert advice and installation service.
The doors should be easily accessible, and the handles shouldn’t require a great deal of force to be operated. Ideally, the handle should measure 1000mm from the door base and feature a return-to-door lever. The lever should be easy to grip, hold and operate without exerting excessive grasping or twisting of the wrist.
Apart from installing equipment, you may also need to proceed with office adjustments layout-wise to enable wheelchair, scooter and walker users to move around freely and safely.
For instance, in a sea of cubicles, there needs to be enough space between workspaces. Similarly, if your office has aisles, you need to ensure they’re wide enough to allow wheelchair users to navigate and move comfortably. You should also ensure there aren’t any obstacles blocking the way or posing trip and fall hazards.
Additional Tips for Improving Access
Providing wheelchair access and entry to your premises is the bare minimum you can do to make your business accessible. To ensure no one of your clients, customers or employees feels disadvantaged or discriminated against, consider making further improvements and adjustments.
Designated Parking Spaces
Designated parking spaces for people with disabilities are the first sign that your business is open and welcoming to everyone. In addition, make sure that there’s an obstructed path from the parking space to your premises.
Worn and slippery floors are a safety hazard to everyone, not just to people with disabilities. Consider installing quality non-slip flooring that provides stability and adequate grip in both dry and wet conditions.
Similarly to flooring, poor-quality illumination can increase the chances of slips, trips and falls. Consider upgrading to quality LED lighting that provides bright and even illumination throughout your premises.
Since not all desks and chairs are of adequate height to meet the varied needs of wheelchair users, it’s best to invest in adjustable office furniture that can be lowered or raised to suit the specific needs of the user.
Braille and Audible Information
People who suffer from visual or hearing impairment may find it difficult to use lifts and elevators. Ensure the buttons feature tactile, Braille or audible information to make these features accessible to everyone.
Even if a prospective client or customer doesn’t face visual challenges, they might not know how to use the access equipment or navigate the premises. Clear and easily readable signage can help people find their way in and around your office or building.
Making your business accessible can be a big investment, but in the long run, creating an inclusive place will outweigh the initial cost. Not talking about protecting yourself from lawsuits, but rather building a strong reputation as a business that operates with kindness and empathy.
Plus, if people with disabilities can’t reach your services, you’re needlessly excluding them from your customer base. With that being said, you can now employ these tips to open your business to people of all abilities and attract loyal customers for years to come.